The City of Portland, Oregon was issued a territorial charter in 1851, incorporating 2.1 square miles of forest, stumps and houses. In May 1913, Portland voters narrowly approved a commission form of government. This structure remains in place today.
Commission Form of Government
The City of Portland has the last remaining Commission form of government among large cities in the United States.
The Mayor, four Commissioners and the Auditor comprise the City's six elected officials. The Mayor and the Commissioners together make up the City Council.
The commission form of government differs from most other municipal governments in that its members have legislative, administrative and quasi-judicial powers.
Legislative - The City Council meets weekly in the Council Chambers to conduct the City's legislative business. The Council adopts the City budget and passes laws, policies and regulations that govern the City.
Administrative - The Mayor and Commissioners also serve as administrators of City departments, individually overseeing bureaus and carrying out policies approved by the Council. The assignment of departments and bureaus is determined by the Mayor and may be changed at his or her discretion. Bureau assignments do not necessarily correspond to departmental titles. (For example, the Commissioner of Public Works may not necessarily have any of the public works bureaus in his or her portfolio.)
Quasi-Judicial - Council members also act in a quasi-judicial capacity when hearing land-use and other types of appeals.
All City Elected Officials are elected at large on a non-partisan basis and serve four-year terms. Elections are staggered, with the Mayor and Commissioners No. 1 & 4 elected one year and the Auditor and Commissioners No. 2 & 3 elected two years later. The staggered election schedule avoids a complete change of elected officials in any one year, except under unusual circumstances.
City & State law give Portland citizens the ability to initiate legislation through the initiative petition process or to refer legislation passed by the City Council to a vote of the people through the referendum petition process.
If you have any questions about how you may participate in the governmental process, please do not hesitate to call the Council Clerk's office, (503) 823-4086 or the City Elections office, (503) 823-3546.